Most students don’t come to college with an agenda to gain a whole bunch of weight.
The pounds can come from anywhere, but in college, one of the biggest culprits is alcohol.
“Beer has no nutritional value and is loaded with what people call empty calories,” professor of health sciences Mark Minelli said. “The high calorie value of beer is what, in my opinion, led many beer companies to introduce light beers with fewer calories as part of a strategy to attract weight conscious people to their brand. They are still bad for you, though.”
The average calorie count in a 12-ounce bottle of beer is around 150 calories, while the average light beer is roughly 100 calories, hardly improving caloric intake.
With the exception of few select beers marketed specifically for their low-calorie count, light beers offer little in the fight to resist the undesirable beer belly.
The calories in alcohol are only half the problem with weight gain. The inebriating effects alcohol has on the drinker are what really add on the pounds, as many people enjoy snacking on greasy, high-calorie foods when drinking and typically don’t feel like being physically active.
“Alcohol is a depressant. It usually makes people want to sit around, eat unhealthy foods and drink more. It’s all the activities around drinking that will really put the pounds on you,” Minelli said.
Simply avoiding alcohol and high-calorie foods would prevent excessive weight gain in college, but being surrounded by so much temptation can make it too hard to resist.
According to St. Joseph senior Jill Jonatzke, balance is key.
“You have to balance it out. It’s okay to have a drink, but you can’t take it to excess,” Jonatzke said. “You end up drinking way too much, snacking on crap foods and you lose all interest in exercising.”
For others, the weight gain isn’t the issue. For Blake Pols, the negative health effects deter him from overindulging.
“The weight gain really isn’t an issue to me; I’m trying to gain weight,” the Grand Rapids sophomore said. “I want to put on muscle weight, of course, and alcohol is just terrible when you’re trying to build muscle mass. It’s counterproductive.”
In the short-term, drinking not only leads to weight gain, but also a vitamin B1 deficiency, better known as Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, causing poor judgment with a lapse of memory and blackouts.
The real hazard of alcohol is the long-term effects it can have on the body, including permanent brain damage, cirrhosis of the liver and kidney failure.
“The more students drink, the more likely they will come down with the infamous ‘brown bottle flu’ and skip class, feeling too hung over to function, hurting their education,” Minelli said.